The Last Word

Lawyers always want to have the last word. Whether it's argumentative, controversial, eccentric or personal, this column allows one author to open a can of worms and see what wriggles out!

Policing ‘The Street’ In Athens

Gill Boehringer

Walking up Pireos Street towards Omonia Square in central Athens on a brisk autumn morning, I heard a very loud screeching. It was far off and I couldn’t tell the origin — human or technological. Hurrying along, with the noise still sounding, I began to recognise it as human. About 75 metres up the street, I stopped. Across the street was the source of the screams. At first all I could see was a platoon of black-garbed, helmeted and masked Special Ops police. One was busily twisting the arm of a male migrant, forcefully bent over the back of a car with his arm behind him. His arm was at an acute angle being twisted roughly every few seconds. The screams were, to say the least, loud and of course upsetting to the bystanders who kept their distance, as did I. But I had the presence of mind to whip out my little Olympus (no pun intended) and take some pictures, desperately trying to get clear images of the twisting officer, the arm and the victim. As the police were milling about, it took me four attempts to get what I wanted.

(2013) 38(4) AltLJ 286

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Garma: Culture on Country

Kate Galloway

A cultural exchange hosted by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, and celebrating the cultural inheritance of the Yolngu people in North East Arnhem Land, the Garma Festival is undoubtedly a leading cultural and intellectual event in Australia, if not internationally. A superb blend of culture, ideas, economics, politics, it provides the opportunity to re-orient our thinking with a focus on Yolngu experiences and priorities. This offers the chance to put into context so many issues presently on the political and policy agenda.

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 204

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Step up feminists: it’s not over yet

Kate Galloway

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (‘SDA’) it is timely to reflect on the status of women’s equality in Australia. Could it be true to say, as some have suggested, that we inhabit a post-feminist era.

The foundation of feminism — in all its guises — rests upon the establishment and defence of women’s enjoyment of equal political, economic and social rights. While legislation such as the SDA enshrines gender equality into law, substantive equality remains elusive.

(2013) 38(2) AltLJ 138

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Environmental justice in NSW: 
access for all or a closed club?

Sophie Riley

Over one hundred years ago, the Irish jurist, Sir James Mathew, reportedly quipped that: ‘In England, justice is open to all, like the Ritz hotel.’ Behind this witticism lie serious issues regarding access to justice and equality of treatment before the law — similar issues, that in the context of environmental justice, currently reverberate throughout New South Wales.

It is a truism to say that possessing a legal right and being able to enforce it are two different things. In particular, legal rules concerning participation and rights of standing may theoretically apply across the board, yet their operation is often constrained by economic factors. For these reasons, institutions such as Legal Aid NSW and pro bono centres such as the Environmental Defenders Office (‘EDO’) perform essential community functions. The EDO, for example, has provided legal advice and representation to the community for almost 30 years. In doing so, it acts as a counterbalance to activities and sometimes oppressive tactics of those with commercial interests and deep pockets. Tacit recognition of the importance of the EDO is evident in the enthusiastic support that the Office has received from consecutive state governments — at least until now.

(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 68

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Thinking like a lawyer

Kate Galloway

In discussions leading up to the publication recently of the discipline standards for law, there was naturally a focus on thinking skills. Indeed many law students and practitioners would be familiar with the mantra of ‘thinking like a lawyer’. Some claim that ‘thinking like a lawyer’ is a nebulous concept, others that it is a ‘self-aggrandising sham … to justify the existence of a … special lawyer class’.

Whether or not one accepts that there is a particular mode of thought or reasoning or analysis that belongs to lawyers in particular, there is growing evidence to show that the way we teach lawyers and the way that law is practised is in fact linked to psychological distress.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 298

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